What does it take to be a “good” mother?

It’s complicated, right?

Is “tough” love, good love?

How do we give our children freedom, while instilling responsibility?

When do our good intentions become unhealthy actions?

These are just a few questions that came to mind as I read through the following books that portrayed a mother as one of the main characters. Some of the mothers depicted in these books are inspiring in an uplifting way and others in an “I-never-want-that-to-be-me” sort of way. I was convicted a few times when I could see hints of certain tendencies in my own life. It might mean a humble confession or apology to our children, but it’s never too late to alter the course of our parenting for the better.

Until, of course, it is too late.

  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: This is technically a memoir of Noah’s own life, it was also a powerful portrayal of an imperfect yet faithful mother. I highly recommend listening to this one (although do be aware that there is quite a bit of language!).
  • I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy: I didn’t love this book, but it provided lots of food for thought. Trying to live vicariously through our children is never a great idea. 
  • The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki: On being a mother coping with loss and mental illness while mothering a child with mental illness. Also about being for our children, when the world seems to be against them.
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: When wanting the best for our children is taken too far. 

Consider this: Take some time to journal or discuss the following.

What qualities do these mothers have that are worthy to emulate? 

Which qualities do you want to avoid? 

Which wrong actions taken by the mothers came from good intentions? What went wrong? How can you, as a mother, prevent your good intensions from becoming unhealthy actions?

How are you giving our children freedom, yet instilling responsibility? 

Which qualities about your own mothering need to change? How will you take the necessary steps to change?

What does a healthy “tough love” look like, if it exists at all?

“Her mother

glided about like a shadow

and taught

that men praised her beauty.

And so it was,

that when she was grown

her heart was heavy

and a great battle was fought in her.”

Seasons of Motherhood

I usually can’t find any films worth watching on the long plane ride between the UK and US, but stumbled upon a Spanish film called Cinco Lobitos, and loved it. It depicts a woman in her first months of motherhood and deals with the complex issues of identity, work, and caring for aging parents, to name a few. There are so many stages to motherhood, some which drive us to feeling trapped, discouraged, and wanting out, and others where we delight in who we see our children becoming, and proclaim that motherhood is our greatest calling! Thankfully, it has been my experience that the days of discouragement are now few and far between, and those of delight are plenty. 

Consider this: Take some time to journal or discuss the following:

In what ways do/did you “lose yourself” in the first year of motherhood? What is/was to be gained?

What part of your identity remains the same after having children? What part changes? 

How are you ensuring that both partners receive life-giving opportunities for the mind, spirit, and body? 


“There was in her
the heart
of no ordinary

This was the birthday card that I made for my daughter’s 17th birthday last week. 17 is a complex, in-between age that continues to keep me on my toes as a mother.

Most days she is happy to be seen and treated as an adult. Other times (when it’s more convenient, usually) she just wants to be a kid. She would do anything for her own room, but I often hear her giggling with the rest of them until late. For years we’ve been talking, discerning, and laying the groundwork for the future based on who we see God making her to be, and now it’s time to start taking the steps that will lead her officially into adulthood. She’s ready for this! 

Consider this: Take some time to journal or discuss the following.

How would you define “success” as your child enters adulthood?

What sorts of things (skills, traits, knowledge, etc.) do you hope your children will carry into adulthood? How will you ensure they gain these things in childhood?

How does your relationship with your children change as they age?

Why did you become a mother?

Famous for her fiction, Ann Patchett has written a memoir in essay form that encompasses many of the ideas she’s pondered throughout a full life. In her essay entitled, “There Are No Children Here”, Patchett discusses how, when faced with the option of becoming a writer or having children, she chose writing because she knew that she couldn’t do both well. It caused me wonder about the various reasons why people do have children.

Consider this: Take some time to journal or discuss the following.

What was it for you? Why did you become a mother?

What trade-offs did you make/are you making in your decision to become a mother?

Are you ever tempted to “have it all”? What do you do in those times? 

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